Cashing in

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“What do you mean my advantage in this situation,” the tiny aspiring thespian asked.

“Well, I mean you are awfully small, you are very distinctive. Plus how many repressed memories are out there just walking around? It might make a really good reality show,” Byron said.

“What’s a reality show, “Fred asked.

“How old was the woman whose head you were in now,” Byron asked.

“I have no idea,” Fred said.

“What year was it when she came into your restaurant?”

“1984,” Sam said.

Byron smiled. They had no idea about cell phones, lap tops or reality television. They didn’t know about gay marriage, 911 or the internet. His mind raced at the possibilities.

“People become big stars now a days just from being themselves. You have to have something about you that’s special and you certainly have that.”

The waiters all  high fived each other. The four men began to plan the show. It was decided they would live in a doll house in Byron’s apartment which just happened to be located in Beverly Hills.

…………………………………………………………………….

Medgar Simpson parked in the Ralphs lot and ran into the store. He did not feel comfortable leaving his apartment for very long these days.  He bought fourteen frozen dinners a box of cereal bars, a six pack and an enormous bag of potato chips for himself. The then Purchased tofu, veggies and rice, brie cheese, mac and cheese and fancy wine for his guests. He drove back to his building and ran upstairs. The tiny people were sitting in their terrarium playing Sorry and using themselves as pieces.

He said hello to them and got a few grudging responses. He put away the groceries while heating up a frozen meal. After gobbling it down he cracked opened a beer and made a salad, boiled water and stir fried some tofu. He opened the wine to let it breath and then poured it into tiny thimbles. When the water reached a boil he made the mac and cheese and doled out ten servings onto a set of Barbie plates. Along with the salad. He carried the meals in two at a time where they were devoured by his unappreciative charges.

“Could you cut the tofu smaller next time,” asked the woman in the house dress.

“Where’s my fish,” asked Jesus.

“You’ll get some tomorrow,” said Medgar in the most pleasant voice that he could muster.

“Excuse me,” said the man wearing the tweed jacket.

“Yes, professor,” Medgar asked wearily.

“I Believe I requested Brie?

“You’ll have it tomorrow as well. I can’t serve all the food at one meal.”

“When will we be interviewed,” the woman in the house dress asked.

“Tonight, or possible early tomorrow morning. Dr. Peterson will be over as soon as his wife falls asleep.

Several hours past and Medgar had two more beers. Dr.  Peterson arrived at midnight explaining that he had given his wife an Ambien. He took each of the little people into the bathroom and interviewed them one by one. Medgar sat and took notes as he recorded the interview on his cell phone.

The woman in the housedress had been Shelia’s aunt who she had caught reading her diary when she was young. The boy on the bike was a grade school bully who had grabbed at her in front of her entire sixth grade class. The man in the tweed jacket was a college professor who made fun on a poem she’d read in class. She had repressed a memory of a time when she had peed in her pants at scary movie she’d seen involving the Catholic Church. THis explained what Jesus was doing there. The teenage version of her was there because she had repressed her entire 15th year. David Strathairn was merely a forgotten star crush. He complained about the fact that he had been completely naked for the last 30 years. Dr. Peterson ignored his request for pants.

When he was done and the little people were asleep. Medger and the doctor sat in the kitchen drinking coffee and eating chips.

“It’s quit fascinating, really,” the doctor said. Every one of her repressed memories has to do with some sort of public humiliation, except for that actor of course. Not only is it a great psychological study, but a sociological one as well. She grew up white, middle class and Jewish. She never had to worry about survival as a child, yet she has a very survivalist mentality.  She does almost nothing now but sit and stare at the television set; she is a completely blank slate.”

“You’re going to be very famous, “Medgar said. “

“So will you, my friend. I just want to study them for about another month. “

Medgar felt his butt cheeks contract. Another month of playing nurse maid to the tiny people? Still he wanted those referrals of whom Dr. Peterson had spoken. He smiled and the two men began to plan a strategy for their study.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Byron sat in his office waiting for the publicist who shared his virtual office to arrive. He’d found his card in the desk and decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a partner in this new endeavor. He heard the elevator creek and crash, followed by steps down the hallway.

The door swung open and a slight, dark haired man entered the room.

“Byron?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Jay Pikeman.  The two men shook hands.

“So, I’m curious to see what this is all about. You say you have some sort of miracle you want to show me?
“Yes, but before we get started. I’m going to have to ask you to sign this agreement,” Byron handed Pikeman a single sheet of paper that basically stated that he would not disclose anything that that was about to be seen or discussed. After the papers were signed the men sat down and Byron opened the desk drawer. The three waiters climbed out. Pikeman gasped and smiled.

The three waiters introduced themselves. Byron explained that they were repressed memories from a woman’s head. Then they discussed the reality show. The three waiters had been living in a luxury doll house in Byron’s living-room. They already had a bit of film footage. The three young men had been 21 for 30 years. They would all be 51 years old now. The show would focus on the three young men hunting down their 51 year old selves and bounding with them.

After the meeting, Pikeman left and the waiters climbed into Byron’s briefcase. Everyone was happy accept for Sam. As they rode home in the dark briefcase he thought that he did not want to meet himself at 51; he wanted to be young. He did not want to be a novelty, he wanted to be a serious actor. He began to plan his escape.

HOLLYWOOD PUBLICIST AVAILABLE

  office

From Craigslist:

I represent writers artist and actors. I will get you booked. $67.00 will get you an introductory package.

Pikeman sat on the bus, grateful for the air conditioning. He had given himself a whole extra hour to get to his virtual office on Sunset Blvd. He tried not to smell the stench of urine and sweat that was present on the bus. He tried not to look at the old woman who had no teeth and an ugly scar or listen to the man who sat arguing with himself about a long ago debt.

As his perspiration froze and dried, he closed his eyes and tried to envision success. He would meet Peter and tell him what he could do for him. Peter would get excited about the idea and they would sign a contract together. He promised himself a victory drink at Bar Marmont.

He opened his eyes as the bus pulled away from the sad madness of downtown Los Angeles and watched the faces change as the 704 drove out of downtown and onto Santa Monica Blvd. Although it was an express bus, it crawled down the road past bums screaming the bible and begging for money and then buildings and houses with peeling paint and many children playing on the lawn. It drove by hipsters loudly proclaiming their disdain for what secretly comforted them and then the Beverly Center with its tourist and its wannabes. Finally it reached his stop, where maids and shop girls dismounted the bus to serve the wealthy and discontented.

He walked to his virtual office, He took the rickety elevator up to the third floor and quickly stuck his sign on the door.  He walked into the bathroom, washed his armpits and brushed his teeth. He returned to his office and sat behind his desk reading the Hollywood Reporter that he swiped from the mailbox of a house, that was just three blocks away from the Wilshire Blvd. call center, where he secretly worked. He checked the clock on the VoIP phone that sat on the desk. He still had five minutes before His client was to arrive. He hoped this one would show up. He took a quick glance at the notebook that was left by one of the men with whom he shared the office. He wondered if it belonged to the psychotherapist or the life coach as he shoved it into a drawer.

He heard the precarious rumbling of the elevator gasping its way to the third floor. He instinctively straightened up, then remember to slouch again. He heard the the slow footsteps of a man trying to locate an office.

Pikeman’s heart sank when the man stepped into the room. He was slight and chubby and  appeared to be about thirty five. He had teeth that would suggest that he was a smoker and a hairline that would suggest he was a worrier.

“Peter,” Pikeman said rising to his feet.

‘Yes are you…”

“Jay Pikeman.”

“Nice to meet you,” Peter said. They shook hands and sat down.

“So, you were a little vague in your e mail, what exactly brought you to me,” Pikeman asked.

“Well, I wanted a publicist.”

“What did you want publicity for?”

“Myself.”

“But, Well, I mean what is it that you do. “

“I live.”

“I see,” Pikeman said wondering how he was ever going to get someone this homely and dull on reality television.

“I want everyone to know about it,” Peter explained.

“Well, we could try to get you on Big Brother or something. Maybe we could start by having you make some videos for YouTube. Can you do impressions?”

Pikeman asked wondering if he still had time to sell his plasma after the audience with this self-absorbed yutz.

“I don’t think you understand. I would never do reality television, in fact I arbore the.”

“ So what are you an actor…a writer? Do you play music?”

“I don’t do any of those things. I’m customer service representative in a call center.”

“Oh yeah, which one” Pikeman asked, “I’ve got a buddy who does that.” He wondered if this wasn’t some kind of trick; was someone trying to humiliate him?

“It’s a legal service in Santa Monica.”

“Yeah, well that can be tough work. I understand why you would want out,” Pikeman said, wondering how many more calls he himself could take before committing suicide.

“Oh, I don’t want out. Well, I mean I do. But, I don’t have any talent and I’m nothing to look at.”

‘That never stopped anyone before,’ Pikeman thought.

“I want all the people in my world to know I exist.”

“In your world,” Pikeman asked wondering if the man wasn’t schizophrenic.

“I want you to let the people I deal with every day know that I’m alive. The coworkers in the call center. My family members, the people on the bus, this really cute girl who works at the grocery store I go to.”

“Peter, I…”

I’ll give you the $67.00, plus expenses and I’ll write you a letter of recommendation.”

Pikeman thought for a moment. He could create bunch of fake Facebook profiles and like everything Peter posted. He could photograph him eating at various restaurants and have a girl he knew who wanted to be a model have her picture taken with him.

“Okay, I’ll do it,” Pikeman said.

The two men signed a contract and Peter left. Pikeman, headed up the block to Bar Marmont. The $67.00 in his pocket made him a professional publicist; now all he needed was a drink.

Bang (part 5)

clap

Penelope awoke to a loud knock at the front door. She went to answer it and found two policeman standing in front of her.

“Penelope Roger’s,” one of them said.

“Yes,” she said.

“We have a warrant for your arrest for the Kidnaping of Tabitha Kraft, the other one said. “You have the right to remain..”

Penelope let out an enormous scream as the police officer seized her arm. It turned into a buzzing noise. Penelope bolted up in bed and slapped off the alarm. She showered and dressed and went to the living room where Billy was already dressed and thumbing through a magazine.

“Mike’s here, he’s prepping Tabitha for the day,” Billy said. Look, I’ve been thinking.  People have probably seen us around town, we stayed in a couple of hotels and our landlady back in Los Angeles is gonna notice we haven’t been around for a while.”

“Look we don’t really know anyone who would even notice us gone for ten days,” Penelope said.

“No, I know, but just in case I think we should apply for jobs ask around about work. That way, if anyone asks, we were having a hard time financially and we were thinking of moving here. We stayed in hotels for five days and the car for the next week.”

“Okay,” Penelope said.

The two headed for a greasy spoon that advertised free wifi. Billy turned on his phone and the two ordered breakfast and began discussing Craigslist prospects loudly.

There was a big screen television on the wall. The sound was turned off but, the close captioning was displayed. Wolfe Blitzer was prattling on about the economy. His show ended and Anderson Cooper’s show began. A picture of Tabitha was proximately displayed.

“Turn this up, Clair,” a patron shouted to the waitress.

“Well the story keeps getting curiouser or and curiouser. One week ago a woman robbed the Central Casting office in Burbank California. Early this morning this bizarre video featuring reality star, Tabitha Kraft was released on YouTube. In it Ms. Kraft claims that she is with the organization responsible for the robbery called the Hollywood Liberation Army which is dedicated to fighting for the rights of poor artists and actors. She makes several demands including “public transportation to be free for three months. Fairer pay rates for background actors and free health care for freelance workers in California.” Here is the video.”

The video began and the patrons in the restaurant sat transfixed. Penelope nervously sipped her coffee and munched on her omelet. Billy smiled vaguely at Tabitha as if he were proud of her.

“The police were investigating the authenticity of the interview,” Anderson said. “Producers of the show have refused to comment on the video or discuss the wearabout’s of Ms. Kraft. “  Anderson announced that he would be having a special show that evening with  special guests, including an expert on cults and a psychologist who was an expert in the psychology of fame.

Penelope and Billy left the restaurant and headed home. They found Josh sitting in the living room.

He told them that Mike had gone to work and Tabitha was going over her lines for that night’s video.

“Anderson Cooper just did a story on us.” Penelope said plaintively.

“That’s great,” Josh said. “If you guys will stay here for the rest of the day. I’m gonna head out to try to hack into Reality Now’s computers.”

“You know how to do that, man,” Billy asked impressed.

“With a few tips from Mike,” he said.

He left and Penelope sat at the kitchen table writing her resume. After a moment Billy announced he was going to help Tabitha run lines.

Penelope tried not to listen at the laughter she heard coming from the other room.

Time (part 9)

 

 

clock

 

The machine rumbled and stopped; I stepped out cautiously. There was nothing in the closet except two rats who stared up at me after I came out of the machine. I bolted out of the closet and into the bedroom which contained many more rats. I ran to the front door, but there wasn’t one: they building had been abandon. I walked down the stairs avoiding several more rats along the way. I almost tripped over a homeless man on my way out.

The street outside was just coming to life in the early morning hours and a boy skated past me on a hover skate-board. A little old lady walked by me with a small yapping dog in a pink designer bag. I did a double take and realized that the dog was actually a robot. The woman looked familiar as well, she was tall and thin with white hair and a pointy noise.

I walked towards the train station to find it still open and operational. I went to buy a ticket, but discovered that the machine was not accepting cash. I went into a drug store and went to the prepaid credit card rack. The selection was very sparse and there were signs everywhere saying “Micro-chipping deadline January 31 2041.

I loaded the card with $100 and walked back out into the street. The neighborhood had definitely gone way downhill. I wondered if North Hollywood wasn’t the new Downtown, based on the homeless people wandering around the train station. There were many abandon apartments and several homeless shelters lining the street.

I purchased a ticket which I was shocked to see was $10.00. I asked several people on the train platform if they’d ever heard of an antiques store called Luther’s most of them looked at me oddly and shrugged their shoulders. One man told me he could find out he rolled up his sleeve and revealed a small screen on his arm. He gave me an address in Silver Lake.

I got on the train to find almost everyone staring at their arms. I looked around at how the girls were dressed. Business clothes hadn’t changed that much and skanks had taken to wearing halter-tops with skorts and high heels. I couldn’t help but notice that the majority of people looked a lot fatter than they did back in 2014; I’d never felt so thin. The train itself was likely the same one I’d ridden on thirty five years earlier (a few hour ago). It had not aged well, the seats were torn and there was scrub off graffiti on the walls.

I got off at The Sunset and Vermont station and headed up the escalator. Several hover mopeds raced by on the street. A couple of young white men walked by wearing backwards baseball caps and pants down around their ankles. I walked by a pizza shop called Old School Slice, boasting bacon, gluten and sugary sauce on the windows. I found Luther’s in a tiny shop on Sunset. I walked in to find a pretty young woman standing behind the counter wearing a backwards baseball cap, a Taylor Swift tee-shirt and a bored expression.

I looked around the store for a moment. There were several old movie posters including Showgirls, The First Wives Club and The Interview. I looked to see if there were any posters for any of the early 21st century Oscar winners, but I couldn’t find any.

Two soft faced young men wearing backwards baseball caps walked by me. I noticed one of them had a teardrop tattooed on his face.

“What you have to understand is that most of Penshee’s concepts were based on Buscaglia’s early writings, which were fundamentally exercised in pop culture existentialism,” one was saying to the other.

A man of about eighty or so entered the store carrying a large box. He set it on the counter and began to remove Items the girl did not help him.

“Do you know how many copies of we have of A Night in Paris? The girl said tossing it aside.

“What’s this?”

“It’s a Salad Spinner, “The man said trying to sound cheerful.

“You spin meat in here?”

“No People used to make salad out of vegetables instead of meat and candy. It used to be hard to get them all combined.”

“Well I doubt people are gonna wanna put there algae tablets in it.”

“Believe it or not some people still eat vegetables,” the man said somewhat impatiently.

“”A hundred,” she said.

“Okay,”

“Fifty Shades of Grey? Everyone who went to high school listened to this book,” she scoffed.

“That’s signed by the author. I know you can use it you have a very educated clientele around here. Radsters love classic literature. I’m not so old that I don’t know that.”

“I’ll go get Barry,” she said rolling her eyes.

A moment later she returned with a man of about fifty who came out and took a look at the book. There was more negotiating and the old man walked out with $200.

“Hey there Kelly are you still here? See something we can help you with,” Barry said to me.

“Ah no, Well I mean yes I’m not Kelly. I’m her sister Tracy. I’m visiting from Denver. I thought she said she was coming here and I guess I must have missed her.”

“I thought your hair looked different,” He said.

“You don’t happen to know where she might have gone do you, “I asked trying not to sound too anxious.

“I really don’t know. She never says much when she comes in here just sell her stuff and goes. We’re always glad to see her! I don’t know how she does it, but everything is always so well preserved it looks like she bought it yesterday.”

“Oh, she comes in often then I take it? “
“About every two months or so, but she never mentioned having a twin.”

“You don’t have any idea where she might have gone do you?”

“Sorry, I don’t” Barry said.

“Why don’t you just use your GPS. The girl said pointing to her arm.”

“Oh, yeah right duh, I’ll try that,” I said heading into the street.

I walked down the block looking to see if anyone would lend me an arm.

Time (Part 2)

clock

 

 

I ran down Van Nuys Blvd to the train station in the sweltering heat. I noticed my purse was still the small red one I’d been carrying when I left and the same $75.00 was still in it. I checked the bills and found that one of the twenties was from 2014. I tried it in the fare machine and miraculously it worked a day ticket and fifteen dollar coins spat out at me.

When I got off the train I bought a copy of the newspaper the date was October 20, 2009

I rode the train to my old building in Beverly Hills and ran up the stairs to my old apartment. As I was on my way up the stairs I realized I no longer had the key. I went to the management office and explained that I had lost my key, I was given a duplicate after signing a form saying I would pay $25 along with next month’s rent.

I walked up the stairs and opened the door to my former life. I had rented the apartment the year before. I couldn’t believe my good luck in finding an apartment for only $1000 a month in Beverly Hills I couldn’t believe the money I was making as a psychic.

It had started two years before that at a party. I was going through a rough time financially and I had been looking on Craigslist for ECT jobs when I came across an ad for a man who needed a psychic for a party. I called and told him I was a psychic and I would work his party for $100 plus tips.

I arrived at the fancy night club where the party was being held and stumbled through the first couple of readings. My third reading sat down at the table he was a tall thin man with a large nose feathered hair and a fake tan.  He said he was trying to make a big business decision.

I told him that he had been an artist in a past life and a business man in another and that those two things were constantly in conflict. I asked him if his conflict had something to do with art and commerce.

“Yes, yes that’s it exactly,” he said.

“You should listen to your artistic side,” I had told him.

He said he would take my advice.

I worked at about a party a month for a year after that in addition to my phone survey job and selling my plasma. One night the same man came up to me and said that he had taken a chance and produced a pilot of a television show that had been picked up by a network. He wanted to thank me and he wanted to recommend me to all of his friends.

After that I was working three nights a week and making about $500 at each party. I took to Googling hosts and their Facebook friends so I would seem to know more about them; no one ever called me on it. I started to get a good reputation. I finally splurged and got the apartment.

Just after I signed the lease my old Honda died on me and I had to get a new used car to get to jobs and to keep up appearances. It was on October 21 of 2009 that I had bought a car that would prove to be an enormous pain in the ass and even something that would be responsible in part for my eventual downfall.

I sat at my old desk and turned on my old laptop. I checked my calendar and found that I had a party booked in Santa Monica that evening. My heart raced. All it said was the name Sampson and an address. I didn’t remember the party at all. I went to my email, but then I remembered I changed accounts and I didn’t remember my old password. I was asked a bunch of security questions and I finally got back in I searched for an email, but I couldn’t find anything. I went to Facebook and found that I was mercifully logged in. I scrolled though my messages, but there was nothing. I typed the name Sampson into my friends, and nothing came up. I looked for recently added friends and found four. I went to each of their pages and finally saw that a Chad Peterman had posted a party invitation featuring me as the entertainment.  I breathed a sigh of relief and began to stalk the people who were invited to the part.

I took a shower with my old lilac scented soap, donned my gypsy outfit and headed to the door. I attempted to call a cab, but my phone wouldn’t work. I located my old phone sitting on my old coffee table. I sat in the back of the cab rehearsing my old line of bullshit in my head.

 

Time (part one)

 

clock

 

I felt hopeful when we saw the ad for a roommate in North Hollywood. My unemployment check did not begin to cover the rent on my Beverly Hills studio and what little I made from audience work and blogging just barely made ends meet.

I’d only met Tom, my new roommate briefly. Tom’s last roommate had run off without paying the rent and he was desperate to find someone new. I noticed that he was kind of nice looking, tall with dark hair and around thirty five. I’d felt a bit inferior being short, a little plump and pimply with hair that refused to do what I told it to. He told me he was in the business of selling travel packages and I told him I was unemployed . I decided not to mention my former career until I got to know him better.

I drove the rental car that was loaded with all my worldly possessions to the small two bedroom on Van Nuys Blvd. A few days after I moved in Tom went to Arizona on business   and I had some time to set up my room, unpack my things and snoop though Tom’s room.

At first, I was a bit disappointed. There was a plain storage bed with a non-descript blue bedspread flanked by two night stands. I snooped through the draws and found tee-shirts and blue jeans, a few Playboy’s, condoms and a copy of On the Road.  There were pictures of family and a movie poster or two on the walls. In the drawer there was a picture of Tom shaking hands with a young Andy Kaufman and a poster from a Dali exhibit in San Francisco.

I entered the closet only to find, a couple of nice suits and many button up shirts and Dockers.  I moved an empty suitcase out of my way and that’s when I saw a door with a golden nob. I opened it and found myself in a small booth. On the wall of the booth were three dials one said day month and year, another said time of day and another still said location.

I quickly shut the door and replaced the suitcase. I went back to my room and thought about what I just saw. It couldn’t be. It had to be some sort of joke. Maybe the apartment had been used in a movie.

The next day I went to a French fry tasting focus group. I got back, with $75.00 in my pocket, feeling very full and wanting a nap. I realized Tom would be home in the morning, so I snuck into the room for one more look.

I opened the closet door and went towards the booth. I heard the apartment door open and shut outside.  I started for the door of Tom’s room, but it was too late. He opened the closet door and saw me.

“Tracy,” he said confused.

“Hi, I just…I um …I … I mean um…I want you.” I said.

“What?”

“I want you…I was just I was going to you know sleep in here be here when you came back.”

“It’s one o’clock in the afternoon and I wasn’t coming home til tomorrow morning; you were going to stay in here the whole time?” He eyed me suspiciously as he came towards me.

“What were you really doing in here, looking for money,”

“No, I swear,” I said.

“You want me? Okay, fine…Let’s go.”

“Well, I . I mean um. Okay um…let me just jump in the shower I guess.”

“Oh relax, he said. You obviously know about it.”

“What is it? I mean it looks like a replica of a movie time machine.”

“It is a time machine…a real one.”

“Oh come on.”

“No, really. I found It here when I moved in.”

“How does it work? I mean if you have to be in the booth to use it, how do you get back?”

“That’s the frustrating part. You see it has limited abilities. I can travel back in time but the place lever is stuck in Los Angeles and not only Los Angeles, but this particular apartment which was built in 1976 .

“You can’t go back further than 76,” I said disappointed that I would never meet my uncle Marty.

I can’t travel anywhere on a plane or rent a car because my driver’s license was issued in 2014. I’m afraid to spend too much money for fear of calling attention to myself.”

“Cant you just go back a couple of days. I mean you could win the lottery. In fact today is Friday, the lottery is on tonight. I said hopefully.

“Look, Tracy I know it probably sounds a little silly, but I don’t want to mess with fate.”

“What makes you believe in fate?”

“The same thing that makes me believe in time machines.”

“oh.”

“You can try it if you’d like. I would just ask that you tell no one and that you don’t do anything that could affect history too much.”

I went into the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea. I could go back to any time in my life after the age of one. The possibilities seemed endless. I decided to go back five years when I had made a terrible decision to buy a used car that was a total lemon and that I had totaled in an accident.

Tom set the dials while I watched. He exited the tiny room and closed the door. I pushed the start button and the room started to vibrate. There was a loud screeching noise and then, nothing.

“Tom, I think it stopped,” I said.

There was no response. I stepped out of the tiny room into the closet. This time it was packed full of women’s clothing. I crept to the door and opened it to find a very pink bedroom decorated with elaborate pillows and a Johnny Depp poster.

I walked out the door and started towards the living room. I was stopped when I felt a pair of eyes on me. I turned to see a red-headed woman wrapped in a towel staring at me in horror.

“ I….I said I’m sorry.”

I ran out the door and into the street toward the train station.

Fortune

 

 

 

gc

I left the Egyptian Theater after seeing Rear Window feeling incredibly depressed. During the film it occurred to me that no matter what, I would never ,ever look like Grace Kelly. It also occurred to me that I would never be as talented as Alfred Hitchcock, but mostly it was the Grace Kelly thing. I stopped for a slice of pizza and a beer when I noticed a fortune teller across the street.  I really didn’t believe in such things , but it’s not like reality was offering me anything to look forward to, so I headed over to see if she could bullshit me into enough of a happiness coma to get me though another two weeks of selling snake oil to the elderly at my crummy telemarketing job.

I walked over to the shop and went inside. A small dog greeted me as I entered. I sat and waited in the reception area which consisted of a single fold out chair and a small round table with magazines on it.  After a moment a dark haired woman, who seemed to have forgotten to wax her mustache came out and greeted me. She led me to a small back room.

“You have nice eyes,” she said attempting to butter me up.

“Thank you,” I said unmoved.

“So what brings you to me?”

“Shouldn’t you know?

“Don’t be a smart ass,” she said.

“Very well,” I said. “I want to know if my life will ever get any better or if I’m ever going to have a reason to live.”

“No.” she said

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean no, that’ll be fifty bucks, “she said.

 

“You want me to give you fifty bucks for that; are you insane?”

“You asked a question I answered it.”

“Based on what,” I asked indignantly.

“Based on this whole thing you’ve got going on.”

“What whole thing?”

“You plain and pale, you’re old and you have a big nose and you go to old movies and psychics by yourself on a Saturday night.”

“But, I mean …. I mean aren’t you supposed to give me like false hope or something?”

“You seem to be someone who thinks of yourself as to smart to fall for that shit. If I told you’d just talk smack on Facebook and I’m not your human kicking post.”

“So then, according to you I might as well just go home and slit my wrists,” is that correct?”

“Well, you could always just concentrate on revenge. You could make everyone whose ever treated you unfairly suffer.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“I have some potions that…”

“Oh no you don’t.”

“If you don’t want potion you could try the internet to get revenge. A fake Facebook profile? Maybe you should fine Jesus?
“Maybe you should asshole,” I said turning to leave.

“Where’s my fifty buck,” she asked.

“Sue me! I said walking out.

All of a sudden I couldn’t move. I was frozen with one foot out the door of the shop. The gypsy came and picked me up. She kept me in the shop for several weeks using me as a conversation piece and a coat rack. I was eventually sold to an antique collector from San Francisco. He had me shellacked and I currently on display in his dining room. I am called “loser on a stick as I am standing on a giant stationary parrot swing.

The collectors are all very fascinated by a sculpture that can talk. I like it here, much better than the call center I had been working in in LA. I am feed very good food several time a day and when they want to exercise me they take me to the park and spin me around on the merry-go-round. The maid washes me every few days and when I can persuade her two she gives me wine or pot brownies.

I’m not sure where everyone thinks I went, although I bet my landlord is upset. I bet they were happy at the call center.  I’m not sure if this curse will ever wear off; I’m not even sure I want it too.

Sales and Marketing

 

craig

 

 

Kleinman sat across from Lucy Fisk his new boss at Fisk and Peterman as she greedily shoved Greek salad into her mouth while washing it down with giant gulps of the triple Sambuca that she’d ordered. Kleinman sipped daintily at his, as he was afraid to get drunk so early in the day.

“So, we’ve got this kid whose been working in our department. Some hipster from Dumbfuck, Goddamn Idaho. You know the type; He was the smartest kid in his high school class of twelve people. He thinks his an intellectual because he’s heard of Gertrude Stein even though he’s never read her, which to be fair is more than the other Dumbfuckians know. He started out as an intern and he banged Agnes so she went and hired him.”

“H’mmm, that’s too bad,” Kleinman said unsure of why she was telling him this.

“He messed up the Hacha Spice account, by fucking posting the fact that our “fan videos were paid for. Spacha Sauce got hold of It and it was all over Twitter. Agnes feels he should be given another chance, I say, bullshit fire him.”

“Wow, that is a really tough position to be in,” Kleinman commiserated trying to think of a way to change the subject.

“So I said okay, but if he screws up again he’s out and she said okay.”

“That seems fair.”

“I think it’s not fair at all, I mean he really fucked up. Kids today feel like they have to put their whole lives on the internet. I don’t get it, are they trying to get their identities stolen? Do they want to be blackmailed?”

“People are getting more tech savvy and less sophisticated,” Kleinman said feeling uncomfortable with the way the conversation threatened to become philosophical.

“Anyway, that’s where you come in. Ya see I have a little favor to ask. You better drink up, it’s a dozy.”

He gulped down his drink as she ordered two more.

“I want you to get him fired.”

“You want me to fire him,” Kleinman asked feeling quite dizzy.

“No, no I want you to get him fired.”

“How?”

“Up to you.”

“I’ll get fired as well.”

“No, I’ll protect you,” she assured him.

For a moment he just sat there in his drunkenness, wondering what to do.

“Look, he should never have gotten his job in the first place. He gave Agnes some nauseating smelly artist bullshit about how he wanted to learn from an older woman; when really he was just a horny kid who’d fuck a dirty sock. He never demonstrated any talent for the job and we almost lost our shirts because of him.

“Is this why you hired me,” he asked not wanting to know.

“Not entirely, but we may need to trim the fat in six months if you know what I’m saying.

The pair returned to the office quite drunk. They pretended to work for four hours and went home.

Kleinman saw the kid in the elevator. He attempted to strike up a conversation, but it didn’t work.

He went home and looked at the want ads on Craigslist, but no one wanted a forty year old copy writer. He watched TV and wondered how he could get the boy fired without it being obvious.

He went on Facebook and looked the kid up and found him quite easily. There were several pictures of the young man enjoying himself at various event. Going back in the kid’s history he noticed there were several pictures of him with an attractive young lady with dyed red hair and a nose ring and then there were not.  Kleinman chuckled at the fact that He’d listed a litany of famous novels as his favorite.

He started to friend the kid, but then he thought better of it. Something like that would be too obvious and may even be harassment.

He began to create a new profile a woman named Lolita, with pink streaked hair and a love of old movies.  He found a picture in one of his own more attractive Facebook friend’s archived photo albums. He created the profile, sent a friends request and waited for the games to begin.

Evidence

 

 

 

 

ssProfessor Applebaum drove down the dark, highway barely able to keep his eyes open. He was still about two hours away from the small, college in Ohio where he was to deliver a lecture on the significance of linguistic evolution in modernist and post-modernist poetry. He could barely keep his eyes open and his stomach growled with hunger.

He saw several signs advertising sustenance of the greasy spoon variety. He got off at the advised exit and drove down a dark winding road that seemed to go on for miles. He saw a sign that said Billy Bob’s Truck Stop.  He speed up a bit at the thought of the delectable food he was about to eat when all of a sudden a bright light flashed in front of him and he felt an enormous thud. He got out of his car in a daze. Standing before him was a little green man with antennas. He had his hands on his hips and was looking at the enormous dent that Professor Applebaum’s Honda had left in his small, square shaped space craft.

“Look at this!” The creature exclaimed. “What are you going to do about this!”

“Um, I….I mean I have insurance its Allstate. Just let me get my card.”

“Are you being series, what mechanic on this planet is going to know how to fix a craft like this, huh, answer me that?”

“So then you are a …an, um I mean a space alien.”

“I prefer the term non sapien earth resident.”

“I see. Well perhaps I can just give you some money and you can go to a planet where you can get it fixed. Is it still flyable?”

“Not to where it will make it to another planet. Someone will have to come down and help me. I’m afraid he won’t take your currency.”

“Well, I really am sorry.”

“Look, there is a way you can help me. I trust you were on your way to the truck stop.,” the creature said.”

“Yes, I was.”

“Well you can buy me dinner. I’m just going to hide my craft in the  forest. I’m Squark, by the way.

“Thomas Applebaum,” the professor said putting out a hand.

Applebaum and the alien arrived at the truck stop about fifteen minutes later. Applebaum was certain that someone would see them and think that his companion was a child in a costume or they would get out a shot gun and kill them both. Instead they walked in unnoticed and sat down in a corner booth. They each ordered large meals with a big basket of onion rings to share. Squark drank beer while Applebaum drank coffee.

“So what do you do” The Squark asked stuffing an onion ring in what Applebaum had assumed was his ear.

“I’m a professor of English at the University of Chicago.”

“Wow, I’ve heard of that place. Are you just taking a road trip?”

“I’m giving a lecture at Oberlin. But, more importantly what brings you here?”

“I’m a research scientist. My planet is dangerously underpopulated. I’m here to study mating habits of earthlings.”

“I see, well we are a rather populous species. How do you go about getting subject?”

“Craigslist, mostly. Occasionally I’ll find people on Facebook or a local watering hole.”

“I’ve noticed people who’ve had encounters with ali…I mean with non sapien earth residents, often hail from the south, is that why you chose Kentucky?”

“Actually, I chose it because it was centrally located. But, that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You see the demographic of the people we normally abdu…recruit tends to be low income, middle-aged Caucasians who are not particularly well educated. We’d like to have more educated test subjects.”

“I see, “said Applebaum uncomfortably.

“We in the non sapian community also need to have more credibility and respect and we can really only do this if we affiliate ourselves with more sophisticated people.”

“Uh huh,” Applebaum gulped his coffee.

“I’d like you to participate in a study. It wouldn’t involve anything more than answering a few questions.”

“Well, I’m very flattered, but it’s just that I’m awfully busy.”

“Well, you did ding my ship.”

“How long would it take?”

“A few hours. Of course we would also asked to, you know go on the news and talk about your experience taking the test.”

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be willing to do that…”

“Why not?”

“Well, I mean a lot of people you know, doubt your existence and well, I have a certain reputation to uphold.”

“That’s why we want you. You’re very credible.”

“Well, I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t understand this, if you want people to know about you why don’t you just tell them yourselves.”
“We tried that on YouTube, but we only got twellve likes. People said our costumes were stupid. We can’t go on the news, someone would try to kill us.”

“Well, I will take the test, but that’s all.”

Suddenly Applebaum began to feel dizzy. The room began to spin and so did the faces of the dozen or so bearded strangers that were in the restaurant.

When Applebaum awoke he was lying on a comfortable bed in a dark room. He looked out the window and so stars flying by him at an astounding rate. He sprang to his feet and hit his head on the ceiling. He sat back down and Squark came into the room carrying a note pad.

“Okay, Mr. Applebaum, now maybe we can begin.”

Missed Connections

craig

 

Magnolia sat in her car watching Kevin, her apartment buildings handyman change the lock on her the vacant apartment next to hers. As he rummaged around looking for the right size door knob, she noticed that his left arm sported a new Bugs Bunny tattoo. She looked at the way the imaged moved with his toned, tanned arms as he pulled out his drill.

A wave of embarrassment rushed over her as her reached up to wipe sweat out of his eyes. Her hand instinctively went up to her check, feeling the scar, long, raised and rough. She hoped he’d be done soon; she wanted to watch her show. She hoped he hadn’t noticed her siting there. She’d just pulled in when he walked up. The last time she’d seen him she’d said hello. He’d smiled politely and asked how she was, but there was a coldness in his eyes, the kind she always seen on the faces of men.

Kevin stood up and reached into his back pocket taking his phone out. He went into the vacant apartment and half closed the door behind him. Magnolia grabbed her grocery bag and made a run for her apartment, closing her door just as Kevin came back out. She put away her groceries as she heard the drill resume. As she ate dinner and watched her favorite show she heard him finish and test the door several times. She heard her neighbor Max greet him on the stairs.

“Hey, man how’s it going?”

“Not, two bad finishing up here then on my way to my second job,” Kevin said.

“Ya, still bouncing at Stella’s, Max asked.

“Still am,” Kevin said as he walked down the stairs. Magnolia she ran to the window, pulling the curtain open as he opened the door to his truck. She saw him look up when she looked out. She dropped the curtain    quickly and went back to watching her show.

She was unable to sleep that night. She was thinking of Kevin guarding the door to Stella’s. She got up and began to surf the web. She went to Cragislist’s Missed Connections and began to look at the ads. A woman with red hair had smiled at a man on the elevator in the NCR building and he couldn’t stop thinking about her. A woman who slept in a tent in her studio apartment, because she was afraid of spiders was attempting to romance a successful young business man she’d seen shopping at Ikea.

Her hands shook as she opened up the post section.

‘Kevin Who works at Stella’s on Main St.’ she began.

‘You were working the door tonight at around 9:00 you smiled at me when I walked in. I am tall with redish blond hair. I was with my boyfriend and a few other people. I couldn’t take my eyes off of you all night. E mail me if you noticed me too.’

She hesitated for a moment and then posted it using an email address she used when she wanted to remain anonymous.

She got into bed wondering if she would ever get a response.

The next morning she woke up and immediately went to her dummies email. There was nothing there. She checked it several times though out the day, but there was still nothing. She wondered if he even had a computer, she knew he had a phone.

She saw him walking around the grounds the next day. Max came out of his apartment and the two of them appeared to be joking about something.

She attempted to hear what they were saying without getting to close to them.

“Hi. Magnolia”, Kevin called to her as she rushed back to her apartment.

“Hi” she said. She closed the door and began breathing heavily. Did he KNO?. He usually only said hello to her if she walked right by him and greeted him first. She turned on her TV and tried to concentrate on the news. She went to the window every five minutes to see if he was still there. She was relieved when she heard the sound of his truck starting and saw him pulling away.

She waited an hour and checked her email. There were a few crude propositions from various anonymous men, but nothing from Kevin.

She donned her baseball cap and went out for a long walk along the river. She sat for a long time watching a family of ducks fish and drift around. Her serenity was broken by two boys walked by and made a cruel remark about her.

She walked back to her apartment and checked her e mail again. This time there was an email from KEVINHART349@hotmail.com.

“I think you may be talking about me. E mail me and we can Skype.” The email said.

She took the ad down and deleted the email account. She did not see Kevin again for several weeks. She tried to forget about the incident.

She saw him again when he came by to change a light bulb that had gone out on the property. She said hello and he grunted a greeting back.

She waited until he left and sat down at her computer. She created a new email and wrote a new ad.

‘Guy who works the door at Stella’s’ she put in the headline. I can’t stop thinking about you. Email me if you see this,’ she wrote in the body of the ad. She posted it and sat down to watch her favorite show. She smiled to herself as the theme music began.